There are some songs that I really believe everyone should hear at least once in their life. Some may be older, some a little more unknown, but each of them incredible in their own way.
Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya by Dr. John
Gris-Gris failed to chart in the United Kingdom and the United States. It was re-issued on compact disc decades later and received much greater praise from modern critics, including being listed at #143 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya, is an indication of the record’s homage to New Orleans eclecticism. The gris-gris voodoo, the gumbo, and “Ya Ya,” the title of one of the biggest hits to ever come out of the city (by Lee Dorsey). The snaky rhythms, soulful backup choruses, and ghostly echoing percussion set an eerie mood.
Dream On by Aerosmith
This was the first single Aerosmith released. Steven Tyler had been working on the song on and off for about six years, writing it in bits and pieces. He was able to complete it with the help of the rest of the band.
Tyler bought an RMI keyboard with money he found in a suitcase outside of where the band was staying. The “suitcase incident” became part of Aerosmith lore, as Tyler didn’t tell his bandmates that he took the money, and when gangsters came looking for it, he continued to play dumb. Tyler played the keyboard in the recording and plays the piano part when they perform it in person.
American Pie by Don McLean
In a survey of the greatest Songs Of The Century, American Pie came in at number five. The end-of-the-millennium list was jointly sponsored by the National Endowment For The Arts and the RIAA in 2001. “Pie” was beat out in the list of 20th century classics only by “Over The Rainbow,” “White Christmas,” “This Land Is Your Land,” and “Respect.”
“As you can imagine, over the years I’ve been asked many times to discuss and explain my song ‘American Pie,'” McLean wrote in an open letter to fans in 1993. “I have never discussed the lyrics, but have admitted to the Buddy Holly reference in the opening stanzas. I dedicated the album American Pie to Buddy Holly as well in order to connect the entire statement to Holly in hopes of bringing about an interest in him, which subsequently did occur… You will find many ‘interpretations’ of my lyrics but none of them by me. Isn’t this fun? Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.”
Hurt by Johnny Cash
Originally written and preformed by Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, the Johnny Cash version is a more hauntingly beautiful piece to me.
Reznor recalled to The Sun Newspaper August 1st 2008: “The Cash thing was a couple of years into being clean I was very unsure of myself. Did I have anything to say? Could I still write music? Did anyone still care? I’d been out of the limelight for a while. I’d put the brakes on everything to try to get my life in order, to try to get healthy and stay alive. I’d been friends with Rick Rubin for several years. He called me to ask how I’d feel if Johnny Cash covered Hurt. I said I’d be very flattered but was given no indication it would actually be recorded. Two weeks went by. Then I got a CD in the post. I listened to it and it was very strange. It was this other person inhabiting my most personal song. I’d known where I was when I wrote it. I know what I was thinking about. I know how I felt. Hearing it was like someone kissing your girlfriend. It felt invasive.”
Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
Originally an obscure Leonard Cohen song from 1984 that was resurrected in the 1990s. Most notably the John Cale/Rufus Wainright version was featured in the movie Shrek.
Cohen originally composed over 80 verses of this song and then cut it down to the 4 that are heard on the recording. Cohen has always been rather tight lipped about what the lyrics really mean. “This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled,” Cohen has said. “But there are moments when we can reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.'”
What is one song you think everyone should hear at least once?